A heated discussion took place recently at a teen center. What was the topic? Who?s going to win the Superbowl or which rock band was the best? No, the group was in deep discussion about the upcoming presidential election. And anecdotal evidence suggests this kind of discussion is going on all over the country.
Surveys indicate that young people?s interest in voting this year is the highest it has been since eighteen-year-olds were given the right to vote in 1972. According to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, or CIRCLE, ?the pool of potential [young] voters is substantial?about 40.6 million Americans ages 18 to 29, or one in five eligible voters.? Carrie Donovan, CIRCLE?s youth director, notes that ?this is a bigger group than [even] 50- to 65-year-olds.?
?We could determine the outcome [of the election],? said one freshman from
Speaking of MTV, it is again promoting its ?Rock the Vote? campaign?with a decidedly left-leaning message. It?s distributing voter registration forms in English and Spanish at 5,000 convenience stores??a Big Gulp and a piece of democracy to go,? MTV calls it. And Planned Parenthood conducted a training camp for young teens to recruit new voters?and ?evangelize? them about so-called abortion rights and why Bush would be a bad choice.
These efforts are nothing new. Campaigns have tried for years to court the youth vote, only to be disappointed on Election Day. Over the past thirty years, voter turnout among young people has declined steadily.
The difference now is that groups are dumbing down politics to attract young people. MTV?s ?Choose or Lose? series aired a documentary, called ?The Best Place to Start,? in which actress Drew Barrymore traveled the country to find out why young people don?t vote. And while the project began with good intentions, it ends up ?patronizing and vacuous,? as writer Alan Wirzbicki points out in the New Republic. The documentary ?takes the position that voting is good because?well, it just is.? Hip-hop music artists and professional wrestling also ?promote voting for voting?s sake? and ?avoid anything but the most vague causes,? like ?change? and ?justice.?
When young people?particularly those away from home at college?find it confusing enough trying to figure out how and where to vote, giving them just a vague reason why they even should does not help.
What an opportunity, though, for Christians to engage young potential voters. Grab a bunch of registration forms. (You can get them at your local library, post office, DMV, or local elections official?or go online to www.RedeemtheVote.com, the Christian music artists? answer to Rock the Vote and MTV.) Then start a conversation about issues that concern them, like education or the war on terror.
Why should we vote? As Christians, we know voting is a sacred duty and the first step toward affecting the wider culture. So make sure you?re registered, encourage others to register, and make your voice count on November 2?and bring your kids, for a great civic lesson.
For further reading and information:
Register to vote by mail.
Project Vote Smart provides a wealth of information on candidates, issues, and much more. Just plug in your zip code or a candidate?s last name, and you?ll find just what you need.
Alan Wirzbicki, ? Star Power: Celebrities and the youth vote ,?
Timothy Egan, ? Vote Drives Gain Avid Attention of Youth in ?04 ,? New York Times,
Evelyn Nieves, ? College-Age Voters Feel Tug of Recruiters ,?
G. Jeffrey MacDonald, ? Lost on campus: the ballot box ,? Christian Science Monitor,
Jose Antonio Vargas, ? MTV, Gamers Hope Video Clicks with Young Voters ,?
?Hordes of voters register in a dozen states ,? MSNBC,
See the ?Worldview for Parents? page ? Why Should I Vote? ?
BreakPoint Commentary No. 040829, ? Our Sacred Duty: Why Christians Must Vote .?
BreakPoint Commentary No. 031029, ? Never Too Young: Teaching Your Kids about Civic Duty .?